When you can’t get out to hunt or fish, the next best thing is reading about hunting or fishing. But for the reading to be meaningful, it’s got to be written by an author who doesn’t mind smelling like a combination of gun oil and wet dog hair, someone who knows the singular feeling of leaky waders in a north woods riffle; who knows what it’s like to be taken to the cleaners on a gun trade; someone who calendars his existence by the words “Opening Day.” Ed Cartier is such an author, and Breakfast by Moonlight is indeed meaningful reading for those of us who share his passion for rod and gun.
“It is a traditional pastime to share stories around an open fire, or camp stove or safari dining room table after many hours spent chasing around after that day’s quarry in the fields, woods or waters,” writes Cartier, whose work has appeared in the pages of Field and Stream, www.NRAhuntersrights.org, Rowland Ward’s Field Sportsman and Griffin and Howe’s The Gun. “This book is an extension of that tradition. The stories are in no special order and are intended to entertain, educate and enlighten. I recommend that you not take them too seriously and enjoy them reclining in your favorite chair accompanied by your dog and a glass of something or other on the rocks.”
Comprised of a collection of short stories, Breakfast by Moonlight is easy to read, features witty, conversational prose, and is downright difficult to put down after you become immersed in the author’s 50 years of hunting adventures.
The book begins with Cartier’s humble beginnings learning the ropes hunting pheasants, grouse, whitetails and other game found in his native New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and follows him on treks to Anticosti Island, Wyoming, Mexico, New Mexico, Alaska, Africa and beyond.
But this is more than just a recounting of hunts. As you progress through the book’s 259 pages, you really get to know Cartier—from his family and friends to the changes in his life and his innermost thoughts, feelings and perspectives. In a sense, the author becomes like a character in a novel. You feel as if you know the man—even though you’ve probably never met him.
Here are a few excerpts from the book:
“Going back, we had two choices: walk down Main Street, which was the most direct route, or walk down a side street that paralleled Main. We decided to take Main. As we entered town, the guys who ran the sporting goods store (where I would find employment in two years) waved to us and gave me a thumbs-up. A traffic cop asked where we shot the bird and admired its tail feathers. Nobody else stopped us, looked at us like terrorists, or paid any real attention to the two kids carrying shotguns through the center of town. When I got home, my dad asked if we got anything. I pulled out the rabbit first, and he paid little attention. Then I pulled out the pheasant with a huge grin on my face. He looked at the bird and said, ‘Well, I guess it was worth the walk.’ He was right.”
“Ginger and I hunted together for ten years. During our time together, I got married, had a son, changed jobs twice, bought my first Parker shotgun, my first new car and shot about 500 birds. She was an integral part of my life until she died of old age. To this day, she represents the best $5 I ever spent.”
“What started as a casual conversation in Hondo, Texas had developed into a friendship that would endure over the years. Over the next three years that I hunted with Caesar, we shot deer, boar, cats, ducks, geese and quail. I learned to drink tequila and lime neat, ate habanera peppers on a bet, had my first taste of pollo mole, gained an appreciation of cabrito (roast baby goat) as well as local art and sculpture. Caesar never took a dime and reluctantly accepted gifts for his family. I could not calculate what these adventures would have cost as guided hunts, and I am sure that I would not have had the friendship and camaraderie that I experienced in Caesar’s Mexico.”
“The next day was eventless, save for the spike bull we saw. The evening promised snow and a change in temperature. “Change” was an understatement. The mercury fell from the high thirties to eight below zero (yes, degrees Fahrenheit). I slept in my long underwear, inside my one-piece insulated suit, inside my sleeping bag. The water vapor from my natural perspiration froze on the inside walls of the tent, and I don’t think I have ever been so cold in my life! I woke up stiff and nearly frozen, unsure of my guide, and nearly convinced that I had flushed several thousand dollars down the proverbial toilet.”
“Anyone who thinks time flies never waited 16 months for a safari to start. By the time I was set to leave, I had packed and repacked three times, sighted in my .338 Winchester Model 70 and .416 Remington 700 twice, and changed loads at least once. I was so ready. Now all I had to worry about was flight connections. Mercifully, the flights were on time. Successfully connecting between Newark, New Jersey and Atlanta, Georgia, between Atlanta and Johannesburg, South Africa and Johannesburg and Harare, takes more luck than skill and some level of divine intervention. At the end of the road, I was walking out of the Harare Airport, large duffel in one hand, guns in the other, when a lanky guy leaning on a Land Rover stuck out his right hand and said, ‘You must be Ed. I’m Johnnie Johnson. Let’s go hunting.’”
“I started collecting guns when I was eight and got my first BB gun. It was reserved for use in the family house in Pennsylvania but it was all mine. By age twelve I was given a Marlin Model 81 DL bolt action.22 rifle that was my uncle’s. At fourteen, I got my first shotgun, a Winchester Model 37 that I should never have sold. Since then, over 150 guns have passed through my hands and/or have resided in my collection at one time or another. I can still name every piece I have ever acquired, sold or traded. I cannot, however, tell you how much I spent (psychologists say you forget the most painful memories).”
Interspersed with narratives of Cartier’s hunting exploits are tips every gun owner and sportsmen can take to heart, including how to go about selecting a guide and booking a hunt, advice on taxidermy, ways to stay warm during a cold day afield, and tips on gun collecting.
The book, published by the Rowland Ward Society, is handsomely illustrated by Mia Genovese. It is available at Amazon.com as a Kindle book and sells for $9.99. Print copies will also be available. To purchase Breakfast by Moonlight, visit www.amazon.com/dp/B00838CDFQ.